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How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

Fleas are common parasites with the ability to make your pet miserable! If left untreated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our Modesto vets share the early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet has fleas. 

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household. 

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Cats and dogs are often allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is what causes them to begin itching and scratching as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one flea bite can cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated. 

As well as the tell-tale scratching, red bumps or pimples may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail or on their behind, on their groin or under their legs. The constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause dry skin and hair loss. Lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated. 

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Small and brown adult fleas are relatively easy to spot with the naked eye. 

Our team recommends that you check your pet's brush or comb while you're grooming them. Having your pet lie on their side will let you have a closer look at areas with thin hair, such as the abdomen. 

You may see "flea dirt". This looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. To check for flea dirt (feces), use a fine-tooth flea comb available at your vet's office to comb along your pet's back and underbelly. By standing your pet on a white towel or cloth while brushing them, you will be able to easily see any black droppings that fall from their fur. 

What if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?

If you are unable to detect any sign of fleas but your pet is still scratching, schedule an appointment with your vet, who can administer a skin test to check for flea allergies, in addition to other types of allergies during your visit. Your pet may be reacting to another type of allergy that's making them uncomfortable.  

If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?

There is a range of safe and effective treatments that can be used to eliminate fleas, including shampoos, sprays, powders and topical liquids. You may need to visit your vet for prescription creams and antibiotics if your pet's case is more severe. 

Early treatment and prevention are the first methods of choice to ensure your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas. 

Do you think your dog or cat is suffering from a severe case of fleas? Prompt treatment is essential. Book an appointment at American Pet Hospital today.

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